Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz 1942-
HOROWITZ, Helen Lefkowitz 1942-
PERSONAL: Born January 31, 1942, in Shreveport, LA; daughter of David (a rabbi) and Leona (Atlas) Lefkowitz; married Daniel Horowitz (an historian), August 18, 1963; children: Benjamin, Sarah Esther. Education: Wellesley College, B.A., 1963; Harvard University, M.A., 1965, Ph.D., 1969.
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of History, Smith College, Northhampton, MA 01063.
CAREER: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, instructor in humanities, 1969–70; Union College, Schenectady, NY, visiting assistant professor of history, 1970–72; Scripps College, Claremont, CA, assistant professor, 1973–80, associate professor of American history, 1980–86; University of Southern California, Los Angeles, professor of history and chair of program for the study of women and men in society, 1986–88; Smith College, professor of history and American studies, 1988–. Visiting professor at Carleton College, 1980, and University of Michigan, 1983–84.
MEMBER: American Historical Association, American Studies Association (council member), Organization of American Historians, Society of Architectural Historians, Berkshire Conference in Women's History, Phi Beta Kappa.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fellow of Smithsonian Institution, 1972–73, and American Council of Learned Societies, 1977–78; Rockefeller Foundation humanities fellowship and National Humanities Center fellowship, both 1984–85; faculty achievement award, Scripps College, 1986; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, 1992–93; Phi Beta Kappa visiting scholar, 1992–93; Spencer Foundation grant, 1992–93.
Culture and the City: Cultural Philanthropy in Chicago from the 1880s to 1918, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1976.
Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s, Knopf (New York, NY), 1984.
Campus Life: Undergraduate Cultures from the End of the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Knopf (New York, NY), 1987.
The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas, Knopf (New York, NY), 1994.
(Coeditor) Love across the Color Line: The Letters of Alice Hanley to Channing Lewis, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1996.
Rereading Sex: Battles over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth-Century America, Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to books, including Philanthropy and American Society: Selected Papers, Center for American Culture Studies, 1987; Reclaiming the Past: Landmarks of Women's History, edited by Page Putnam Miller, University of Indiana Press, 1992; and Five Colleges: Five Histories, University of Massachusetts Press, 1992. Contributor to periodicals, including American Quarterly, New York History, Journal of American History, Reviews in American History, Chicago History, and Landscape. Member of editorial board of History of Education Quarterly, 1980–83.
SIDELIGHTS: In Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz presents a socioarchitectural history of ten leading American women's colleges, examining how their physical forms reflected the way women were perceived by men and the way members came to perceive themselves. Originally conceived as protective seminaries furthering femininity and domesticity, the institutions gradually assumed—in architecture and curriculum—standards indistinguishable from traditional male universities. "As Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz makes clear in her instructive history … the intentions of those who planned and built colleges for women were often at odds with the institutions that actually came to life," observed Diane Ravitch in the New York Times Book Review. "Ironically, notes Mrs. Horowitz, 'buildings designed to protect femininity became places where women learned to act like men.'"
Describing Horowitz's "densely researched" study as "intriguing" and "absorbing," Anne Chamberlin stated in a Washington Post Book World critique that, "Presenting the design of colleges as an embodiment of their purpose gives a fresh and provocative slant on their history." Reviewing the book for the Los Angeles Times, Elaine Kendall wrote, "within strictly circumscribed boundaries, Alma Mater is a useful adjunct to the still small body of literature on women's education in America…. [Horowitz] investigat[es] her particular territory conscientiously while arousing our curiosity about other aspects of a dramatic experiment." And, admiring the author's "keen understanding of esthetics and design," Ravitch advanced a similar evaluation: "Horowitz has written a history that will inform those interested in women's history and in the history of higher education. Some readers may wish that she had provided greater detail about curriculum and social issues and less about architecture, but she has done a splendid service in capturing the interrelationships among the nation's premier women's colleges in their formative years."
Horowitz continues to survey the history of college education in Campus Life: Undergraduate Cultures from the End of the Eighteenth Century to the Present. As Ann Japenga reported in the Los Angeles Times, Horowitz believes that "throughout history [college] students have sorted themselves into minicultures." These subgroups include the aggressively sociable "college men" often seen in fraternities, the more studious "outsiders," who come to college driven by a respect for knowledge or a desire to overcome poverty and discrimination, and the "rebels," concerned with social issues within and outside of the university. Japenga explained that to portray these various student cultures, "Horowitz undertook an exhaustive historical search" through autobiographies, fiction, interviews, and the writings of academics. Christian Science Monitor contributor Robert Marquand noted, "the story Horowitz tells is detailed and fascinating." He concluded, "overall, this is an important book at a time of renewed debate about the role and purpose of college in America."
Horowitz presented readers with an examination of American views on sexuality in her 2002 work, Rereading Sex: Battles over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth-Century America. In this book, the author maintains that during the 1800s there were four separate streams of culture influencing sexual viewpoints in the United States. One of these was traditional sexual lore and humor, which frankly celebrated desire; another was Puritan-based Christianity, which tried to still any discussion of sex; yet another was a kind of male sporting viewpoint, which advocated sexual adventure without negative consequence; the last was that of social reformers who advocated free love. Booklist contributor Donna Seaman praised Rereading Sex as "an intricate tapestry of nineteenth-century American sexual culture."
In addition to writing important books about American culture, Horowitz has also served in an editorial capacity. With Kathy Peiss, she edited a series of letters between a white woman and a black man who were lovers in Massachusetts at the beginning of the twentieth century. Reviewing Love across the Color Line: The Letters of Alice Hanley to Channing Lewis in the Historian, David R. Roediger remarked that the "combination of discoveries and gaps creates such a fine book is in large part a credit to the ways in which the supplementary materials assembled by the editors bring out what is fascinating about the letters and the study of them." Horowitz also edited a collection of John Brinckerhoff Jackson's writings about American culture, Landscape in Sight: Looking at America. According to Planning reviewer Harold Henderson, the book presents "a chance to step back from the daily grind and take a fresh look at places we see every day."
Horowitz once told CA: "It is difficult to summarize the nature of my work as a cultural historian. I have attempted in various ways to probe the nature of American culture. In Alma Mater I tried to look at the relation between the forms and spaces of buildings and attitudes toward women in our society. In my … study of undergraduate life, I have explored the way that traditions created early in American collegiate history have continued to inform the way students think and act. In my current research on life in the women's colleges I am looking at the complex process by which young women matured in college. In each of these works I have had to turn to other disciplines. In Alma Mater I drew on my recently acquired training in architecture and planning as well as on the broad field of women's studies. In the work on collegiate cultures I turned to social psychology, sociology, and anthropology for their detailed studies of college students. Presently I am drawn to psychology and anthropology to understand what happened to college women."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of Rereading Sex: Battles over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth-Century America, p. 27.
Christian Science Monitor, May 11, 1987.
Historian, winter, 1998, David R. Roediger, review of Love across the Color Line: The Letters of Alice Hanley to Channing Lewis, pp. 387-388.
Journal of Women's History autumn, 1998, Carol J. Gibson, review of Love across the Color Line, p. 222.
Kirkus Reviews July 1, 2002, review of Rereading Sex, p. 932.
Los Angeles Times, November 1, 1984; April 20, 1987.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 21, 1987.
New York Times, November 27, 1997, Patricia Leigh Brown, review of Landscape in Sight: Looking at America, p. F7.
New York Times Book Review, October 28, 1984; August 9, 1987.
Planning, February, 1998, Harold Henderson, review of Landscape in Sight, pp. 27-28.
Publishers Weekly, July 1, 2002, review of Rereading Sex, p. 65.
Washington Post Book World, January 27, 1985; May 31, 1987.
Western Historical Quarterly, winter, 1998, Patrick Pynes, review of Landscape in Sight, p. 529.